Why vacation counts as study time

Everyone is always talking about immersion, but let’s be honest—not many of us can just hop on the next flight to Uruguay to practice our Spanish. Luckily for me, I’ve gotten to take two trips this year to different international cities, and I realized that it doesn’t even matter where you go–vacation is a secret weapon for language learners. Keep reading to find out how, and maybe get a great excuse for taking some vacation days.

Chicago, Illinois: The Listening Game It’s honesty time again. When you are faced with the choice between studying Italian future tense and shopping in downtown Chicago, the answer is pretty clear. At the start of my trip to Chicago, I thought that taking so much time off from rote studying would totally kill my momentum in all the languages I am studying. But it turned out to be the complete opposite. After my first day in Chicago, I was overwhelmed with all the different languages that I heard on the street! At a local park, I heard snippets of Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. Walking down the street, I could hear people conversing in Hindi, Arabic, and French. The experience was so incredible! I decided I couldn’t let the opportunity to practice my language identification skills pass. With a scrap sheet of paper, I made a list of all the languages that I could recognize just by hearing them. Every time I heard one of the languages on the sheet and was pretty sure that I was right, I checked the box next to the language. Different languages had varying point values—Portuguese was worth more than Spanish, for example—and I got bonus points for speaking and reading some languages. Although it was pretty distracting, it was so satisfying to hone my identification skills.

Niagara Falls, Ontario: If It’s Free, Grab It I had a blast at Niagara Falls with my family last week, and played the Listening Game again (yes, I beat my high score). But there was one thing in Niagara Falls that Chicago couldn’t offer me: tourism. Everywhere I looked, people were constantly trying to sell me experiences with free handouts and pamphlets about why their tours were the best. I eventually realized that I could take advantage of this and I snagged the flyers in Spanish and Italian when they were available. At night, I would take them out before bed and try to translate all the Spanish ones. I boxed all the words that I had to look up and wrote them down. This was basically practice for Spanish, where I could translate with ease, but it was a great vocab builder for my A2 Italian.  One of the most important parts of language learning is cramming study and practice in whenever you can, and by implementing these simple tricks you can add hours to your study time each week (and maybe even have an excuse to take a vacation!). Listen as you walk down the street, translate everything you get your hands on, and soon you will find that it gets a lot easier to think and speak in the language as well! How do you add precious hours to your week? Comment below!

Sydney Sauer • August 9, 2015

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